Sandifer, William Roper II

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .




Bill Sandifer

(1936 - 2019)


Born in New York.  His father had an illustrious career working as one of the architects that designed and constructed the 102-story Empire State building (he supervised construction), the 1939 World's Fair, and several US embassies.

After World War II, the family relocated to Denver and in 1946 purchased 1250 acres on Upper Bear Creek Road, just up from Troutdale-in-the-Pines.  The elegant mansion designed by Denver architect Maurice Briscoe as a summer camp for Genevieve Chandler Phipps, was built by Jock Spence and completed in 1916.

Under ownership of the Sandifers, the property, known as Greystone, would become a well known guest ranch visited by many of the rich and famous known to have summered in Evergreen during the Troutdale era (early 1920s-late 1940s) when Upper Bear Creek was referred to as "Cadillac Canyon."

One of Bill's favorite stories happened in about 1959 when TV and film star comedian Groucho Marx, his daughter, and their dog "Desoto" were at Greystone.  Bill was tending bar and some new guests arrived driving a big Cadillac.  The discussion turned to cars, and Groucho's daughter announced to the bar, "My daddy would have a Cadillac too, but he has to drive a Desoto, or they would fire him!"  (Desoto sponsored the Groucho Marx Show on TV.)

Some of Greystone's other prominent guests included Cornelia Otis Skinner (who always took the entire Sandifer family to the Central City opera and dinner out), Wernher von Braun (German-born rocket scientist), Dorothy Collins (singer, actress, recording artist), Tex Beneke (band leader at the Trocadero Ballroom at Elitches), Colorado Governor John Love, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Harry Blackmun (who authored Roe v Wade) and author Clive Cussler.

In the early years of the guest ranch there was always one crisis after another at Greystone Guest Ranch," Bill reflected.  Greystone's water came from a well near Upper Bear Creek and was pumped uphill to a 5000-gallon elevated tank (20' in the air) in the barn complex. In the winter of 1949 when Bill was about 13, there was a fire in the water tower.

"One night, about 7 pm, my Dad noticed a fire in the boxed insulation surrounding the water pipe extending up to the tank....  He realized it had been started by a helper attempting to thaw a frozen water pipe in the pipe line, covered with wooden insulation, coming down from the water tank. The Evergreen Fire Department was brand new and had limited equipment and resources.  They responded with their only truck and portable pump.  Meanwhile, my Dad organized everyone at the ranch into a bucket brigade to throw water on to the fire from a horse trough located nearby.  That managed to control the spread of the fire until the fire department arrived. My dad's efforts controlled the fire which resembled a large pot with a big fire underneath!  The good news is that the barn structure and the water tower were saved.  Greystone Guest Ranch would have been hard pressed to continue without those structures."

In the late 50s, Bill and some of the "summer kids" from Upper Bear Creek would sometimes "crash" dance parties in the famed Rainbow Room at Troutdale-in-the-Pines.  As he recalled, Troutdale didn't seem to mind as long as their tabs were paid.

Bill was the chief wrangler at the ranch during the 1950s.  Every morning he had to round up 12-18 horses and saddle them for the guests to ride, then lead guests on horseback along the trails that meandered through the pines of the 1250-acre ranch.

"We found we had better luck at Greystone with employees who didn't have a lot of hotel experience –  they could be taught to  do things the way we wanted them to," Bill recalled, chuckling when telling about a woman he'd trained to be bartender.  She'd known very little about the variety of drinks she'd be called up on mix, and her favorite book became The Bartender's Guide. It was customary to ask guests if they'd like a drink when they checked in.  One day after a family checked in, the dad came to bar and asked for a light bulb.  She looked extremely flustered, grabbed the book, not finding a drink called "lightbulb," told him she didn't know how to make that drink.  He laughed and said, "No, a 75-watt lightbulb for the lamp by the bed!"

Bill graduated from the Colorado School of Mines with a degree in Mining Engineering, served in the Colorado Army National Guard, and became a registered land surveyor in 1968.

In 1967 the Sandifers turned over management of the guest ranch to Bill and his wife, Marilyn, and it was used for numerous weddings and special events in later years.  The Sandifers sold the guest ranch in 1981.

From his days of leading guests on horseback through the property, he'd grown to know the lay of the land as well as the views from various locations, giving him an eye for subdividing when Evergreen began its transformation from a summer destination to a year-round community.  He developed some of the 1250 acres owned by the family as Greystone Lazy Acres (1959-72) and Greystone Estates (1970-72).

He volunteered with the Colorado Land Developers Association, serving as secretary from 1970-76.

As was the case with any able-bodied male who was part of the scant year-round population prior to 1970, Bill was a volunteer firefighter.  He served with the Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department for 20 years (1965-85), serving as a lieutenant and captain in charge of forest fires before retirement.  After retiring , he planned and supervised the construction of fire cisterns in four different outlying areas within the district but outside the area serviced by hydrants (1990-94).

He has served as usher at Church of the Hills for more than 40 years; was active in the Chamber of Commerce during the guest ranch days; and has served in various leadership roles with the Upper Bear Creek Homeowner's Association, including as its president for 5 years.

He joined the Evergreen Kiwanis Club in 1967, served as its president (1987-88) and on the board for an additional 4 years, and for more than 10 years has been in charge of the kitchen for the club's annual pancake breakfast.

The Sandifers continue to live on 100 acres of the original ranch on Upper Bear Creek Road.

Sources:  Bill and Marilyn Sandifer